Reports in the international media have made much of how Pakistan is not currently part of the Combined Task Force (CTF) 151. This is a multilateral framework that operates in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR); focusing on maritime security and freedom of passage. There has been speculation that American refusal to pay for fuel used by patrolling warships may have prompted Islamabad’s departure. Though the Pakistan Navy signalled back in the summer that its attention would turn towards Regional Maritime Security Patrol (RMSP). In real terms, this means ‘securing’ passageways from the Gulf of Aden to Oman. Not to mention the Strait of Hormuz. This represents a geo-strategic turn of sorts. And it is one that may not best please the US. After all, the IOR is a hotly contested expanse; with some 40 percent of the world’s offshore petroleum produced there. The Ocean is also used to transport close to 65 percent of global oil supplies as well as 35 percent of gas from the Gulf region. It is no wonder, therefore, that pundits describe the race as being on when it comes to controlling this critical waterway which acts as the most accessible gateway to Central Asia and western China. All of which raises important questions over Pakistan’s seismic shift. The most obvious answer is that the US and China are essentially battling it out for dominance over the IOR. Thereby leaving Islamabad free to formulate a new maritime security doctrine. Which is another way of saying that it is in the national interest to safeguard CPEC waterways. Gwadar Port is the Economic Corridor’s third terminal. That it shares close proximity to Iran as well as the Hormuz Strait — known as the world’s most important oil artery — should tell everyone all they need to know about this country’s evolving priorities. And given Indian suspicions over Beijing’s regional ambitions coupled with increased talk of predatory lending practices — it remains up to Pakistan to hold the fort at home, so-to-speak. None of this should give cause for alarm. Membership of CFT 151 operates on voluntary basis with constituents rotating every 4-6 months. Regardless of whether allegations of American non-payment are true, the point remains that this country, like any other, has the right to pursue rapidly changing strategic interests. Without having these framed as defying any of the major powers. That being said, the international community must commit to ensuring equitable access to natural resources. For the mantra of ‘all for none and none for all’ has gone on for far too long. * Published in Daily Times, October 11th 2018.